Russell Westbrook’s resurgence off the bench has been a temporary fix to a glaring problem for the Los Angeles Lakers.
He’s averaging 15 points five rebounds and seven rebounds per game in 23 games off the bench this season. No player coming off the bench has ever averaged 15, five and five in an entire season.
In control of the second unit and playing at a faster pace, Westbrook’s shown his willingness to buy into a new role. He’s become more interested in playing defense and making extra-effort plays.
However, his shooting numbers have been all over the place. Since Thanksgiving, Westbrook has shot 19% from 3, a stark decline from his 40% clip nine games before the holiday. He’s also shooting a tad over 40% from the field this season.
Westbrook’s value to the team is clearer now, but his role alongside the Lakers’ two stars in LeBron James and Anthony Davis is still a talking point, according to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report:
The Lakers feel like they’re not far from fielding a contender. Coach Darvin Ham getting Russell Westbrook to accept a role off the bench has increased his value to the team, especially as a playmaker for a resurgent Anthony Davis.
But concerns persist internally that Westbrook doesn’t complement LeBron James and that the mix of stars may not work in the postseason when rotations shorten.
That concern stared L.A. right in its face in the Lakers’ recent defeat to the Boston Celtics. Westbrook closed the fourth quarter and played the entire overtime with James and Davis.
With James and Davis out of steam, Westbrook handled the ball to start overtime. He scored the first four points of overtime but then missed three straight jumpers as Boston went on a 12-0 run to secure the win. The Celtics dared him to make shots, and he failed to do so. Teams won’t treat him any differently if he’s in the postseason rotation.
Coming into the season, the Lakers hoped Westbrook’s corner 3-point shooting could allow him to complement James and Davis. So far, Westbrook’s shot 22% on 23 corner three attempts.
The Lakers have still floated Westbrook’s name in trade talks. With the Chicago Bulls’ season spiraling, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic may be available soon in a deal. Westbrook would have to be included to make it work, but the Bulls are reportedly not interested in him.
Austin Reaves says Celtics game felt like one Lakers ‘should’ve won’
A miraculous Lakers comeback fell just short Tuesday night. After falling by as much as 20 points, L.A. stormed back via a 44-12 run across the third and fourth quarters. But, it wasn’t enough, as the Lakers lost in over time.
Austin Reaves was happy with how the Lakers competed but felt there was more left on the table.
“I’m really happy with the way we competed in the fourth, end of the third and start of the fourth, throughout the whole fourth honestly. You’re gonna lose games in this league but that one felt like we should’ve won.”
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